I realize that many (most?) of you already work in a place that has a CAD Admin. Maybe you are that person. This article will just strengthen your stance. Make sure it gets on your boss’ reading list along with a budget bump request. I’m really writing this for those companies who are right on the brink. You’re thinking about assigning a real CAD Admin, but just haven’t had the time or that one event to push you over the edge. First, let’s get started by asking what a CAD Admin does. I’ve written a bit over on the Solid Edge blog about CAD Admins, probably the best of which was an interview with Melissa Schultz, where we talk about training and a CAD Admin’s take on the world.
You may even decide after reading this article to rename the CAD Admin position to Product Development Admin, PD Technology Director, or something to that effect, since the scope of this job is so much greater than just CAD, and it is so much more specialized than just another IT position.
The CAD Admin role is different at each company, but it generally covers a range of duties from selection of CAD, PDM, and related tools, training, tech support, reseller liason, honorary IT, installation of software, software and training budgets, writing best practice documents, drawing and model requirement specifications, proof reader in chief, sit on the Material Review Board, admin of the document change process, sometimes new hires, contractors, and a key member of the product development process. And sometimes it’s not even a paid or titled position. Or you might also have to do some design or drafting work. So your background is in design or engineering, and you have a lot of practical IT experience. And of course you know the hell out of the CAD software.
Maximize Your CAD and related tool purchases
One of the big reasons to have a CAD administrator is to make sure all of the related design and development tools are working together optimally. This means getting software that either runs in the same window or can trade file types back and forth. So if you’re a Pro/E shop, you have to make sure that whatever PDM software you select works with Pro/E. What about CAM? Does it run inside of your CAD? Do you really want it to? If it is external, how do you link the two? Do you want to control your CAM files. These are all questions an experienced CAD Admin has had to answer at one time.
If you are moving to CAD in the Cloud, some of these questions become simpler, but some become more difficult. For example, your options for CAM that works directly with CAD in the Cloud are limited. You may have to push neutral files out to create toolpaths.
Maximize your relationship with software vendors
Vendors offer technical support for the software they sell you, but it may be most efficient if you provide the internal support, and then any questions that get by you are handled between you and your vendor. This eliminates duplicate issues chewing up too much time. Plus, a single point of contact will notice if you are having trouble with a certain version video driver when the software vendor may not notice that. Not all CAD admins have the product knowledge to act as internal tech support, but I think they should.
Maximize training dollars
I’ve seen companies ride both sides of this issue. On one side, you have the “train the trainer” people who have lots of time, but not much money. So the CAD Admin gets trained on everything by the vendor, and then offers that training internally to all of the users. This is efficient as long as the CAD Admin takes great notes and is also a great teacher. It might turn out that the vendor (or an outside consultant) is a better choice for training. On the other side of the issue are the people who send everyone to vendor training. This costs a lot of money, but it can be argued that you get higher quality and more consistent training. It really is difficult for one person to be a true expert on everything. Your CAD Admin is not Superman.
Maximize your internal processes
Your internal documentation and the flow of it within your company is key to the development of good products. All departments have to have some input into the design, or get a heads up on various aspects of the design so they can proceed with end user documentation, or warantee, repair, packaging, marketing, and various other activities that generally come downstream from product development. Change processes also must serve the entire organization, and it’s best to have one person in charge of this to make sure the process makes sense from top to bottom.
There are so many aspects to managing the technology around your product development process, and CAD Admin is just one of the most necessary. If only to manage the efficiency of your company’s investment in software and training, even smaller installations need a lead user who makes sure everything is going in the right direction.